Posted on June 19th, 2014 (4:02 pm) by Theresa Flanagan

"What Is This Heart?", How To Dress Well's latest release, took a long time to grow on me. I listened to it over and over again, trying to see exactly it was that had Ian Cohen and company all excited over at Pitchfork. All three singles off the record got tagged "Best New Track" by three different writers, and they were hardly the only ones impressed. I just couldn't get in to Tom Krell's wavery white boy R&B. I was in the process of packing up all my belongings for a cross country move, tying up loose ends at work, preparing to cover Bonnaroo for IYS and generally running around like crazy, so all I wanted to listen to was my old stand-by, hype-me-up-to-get-shit-done jams. Finally, something about the deeply personal record clicked, at a point when I had slowed down enough for it to sink in.

The record kicks off with the heavily stripped down "2 Years On (Shame Dream)," which definitely contributed my difficulty connecting at first. Its simplicity has growing power, but it isn't exactly the most compelling opener. The three first singles "Words I Don't Remember," "Repeat Pleasure" and "Face Again" are easily the most accessible tracks on the record. Which makes sense; the point of pre-releasing tracks off a new record is to generate interest in the upcoming release so ideally you would start off strong. For those not yet familiar with his alt-R&B ambient pop sound, these tracks offer an easier, slightly more mainstream based entry into How To Dress Well's world. There are a lot of different things going on over the course of the twelve tracks of "What Is This Heart?" as Krell explores the outskirts of his bedroom R&B realm. Though his heartfelt lyrics and vulnerable falsetto remain constant, the instrumental background shifts dramatically from track to track. Some allow for a more immediate connection, while others require longer to sink in.

Describing "What Is This Heart?", I'm reminded of a quote from 1,2,3's Nick Snyder about their recent record Big Weather—"this album is undoubtedly ridden with flaws, but so are its creators." Tom Krell has his flaws, but they're what make his music beautiful. "What Is This Heart?" isn't perfect, it's real. As such, it has missteps. However, the overall effect makes up for them. If it doesn't hit the mark the first (or in my case even tenth) time you listen to it, don't give up. How To Dress Well just might win you over with his authentic honesty.

Check out the first two installations of the video trilogy that is accompanying the record's release below. Part 1 is based on track "Repeat Pleasure," and Part 2 follows "Face Again."

HTDW has self-leaked the album a full six days ahead of schedule, check out our post about it here. "What Is This Heart?" is due out on Domino Records June 24, and How To Dress Well will be heading out on a North American tour starting at the end of August. See dates over on the website.

Track List:

  1. 2 Years On (Shame Dream)
  2. What You Wanted
  3. Face Again
  4. See You Fall
  5. Repeat Pleasure
  6. Words I Don't Remember
  7. Pour Cyril
  8. Precious Love
  9. Childhood Faith in Love (Everything Must Change, Everything Must Stay the Same
  10. A Power
  11. Very Best Friend
  12. House Inside (Future is Older than the Past
How To Dress Well: "What Is This Heart?"
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

74 / 100
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